Earlier today, I thought to myself: "How would I describe this performance if I could only do it in one phrase?", as I toyed with the idea of a one-line report. The best I could come up with was "Helen Keller running an obstacle course".
(Side note: Let's all spare a thought for one of our Arsenal NYC brethren today. As the Ticket Liaison for our fine group, I can tell you that someone paid for a ticket, a flight to London, a hotel...all of it to watch this shower of shit. I am absolutely gutted for him, that's for sure. On the other hand, he's also going to Everton so I hope for his sake that we smash the Toffees.)
I was quite nervous about this one heading in, precisely because so many thought it would be a walkover. Well, we have now shipped six goals in two games, at home, against Anderlecht and Monaco. Once again, our guys turned up in hubris and arrogance, assuming that they would win simply because their shirts had a more impressive name than the opposition's.
As it turns out, Monaco are a much better team than Anderlecht, and we got what we so thoroughly deserved. Again.
I mean, just look at the team that Arsene picked today. Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Danny Welbeck, Olivier Giroud, and Santi Cazorla all started. It was left to Francis Coquelin alone to protect the back four, and he was left to chase shadows as Monaco picked us apart down the wings all day. Just like Bayern did the last two years. Just like Milan did before that. The fullbacks may as well have been auxiliary strikers for how far up they were. Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker got caught out more than once beyond the halfway line, rushing into low-percentage challenges.
We never learn. Or, more appropriately, Arsene never learns. He tore into his players in his post-match presser, but he was curiously silent on who exactly should have been expected to prepare them to play differently. It's a puzzlement, yes?
I don't know why people thought this was going to be a walkover, anyway. We had been on quite the run of form, on paper, but further scrutiny shows that it is more of an indictment of our opponents than anything having to do with us. We were aching to be turned over by the first decent team we played, in retrospect (the Manchester City result aside, and that is looking increasingly like an anomaly).
The match was almost comical in how closely it followed the Arsenal First Leg in Europe cliche, as it earnestly followed the dance steps painted on the floor. Start out semi-quickly? Check. Miss a bunch of easy chances? Check. Get hit on the counter? Check. Get hit on the counter again? Check. Panic and bomb everyone forward, making a bad situation worse? Check.
I know..let's play a game! I call it: "Who was the single worst Arsenal player out there today?"
Some are going to go with David Ospina, but that isn't quite right. His paper-mache wrist on the third goal was utterly dreadful goalkeeping, but there wasn't much he could do about the other two. Seriously, the bend and the dip on the first one was bad enough, even before the deflection. No one saves that, and anyone who tells you otherwise is a doofus. Still, I knew I was always right about Wojciech Szczesny emphatically being our best goalkeeper, and I hope comes straight back into the team now. We move on.
Despite only coming on as a sub, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has to be up for consideration as well. To his credit, he did score a lovely curling peach of a goal when presented with more time and space then Neil deGrasse Tyson could shake a stick at. However, his brain-dead giveaway on the halfway line led to the backbreaking third goal. Of course, 1-3 is far worse than 0-2, so really he was a net negative on the day. Oh, but there are better options for sure, though.
What, then, of Olivier Giroud? Even though he is our only target man of note, he was still unceremoniously hauled off on the hour mark. I still think he's a damn good player on his day, but he was a special kind of awful on this occasion, somehow contriving to miss three glorious chances. There was a weird symmetry to it too, as the chances got easier as they went along, his attempts increasingly more pathetic to meet the challenge of not scoring. He would be a good shout, but there are still further depths to plumb, my friends!
If it were up to me (and it's my report, so it is indeed), I'd call it a two-way tie between Koscielny and Mertesacker. What the BFG was doing on the second one, I have no idea. I don't know what happened with those two today, but they both displayed the positional awareness of a tranquilized tree sloth. Given that we were basically playing a formation with a keeper, those two, Coquelin and six strikers, we needed restraint and discipline from them. As senior players and seasoned internationals, we needed them to show leadership when the rest of the team was panicking. Instead, they were frankly the worst offenders of decapitated-chicken syndrome, and man, has it cost us large.
Still, if we expand it to non-players, then of course Arsene is more culpable than the rest put together. The whole litany probably doesn't bear repeating - I'm sure you all know it by heart by now - but all of the old favorites were there. Our gameplan was overly aggressive, there was no Plan B, there was no adjustment when it was clear that they were killing us on the wings, on and on and on. So naive. So stubborn. So arrogant. The fact that he has the gall to call out the players is just the icing on the cake - if those weren't your tactics, then...umm...what exactly do you do here, mate? Sure, if Ollie had one of his Dr. Hyde days it might have been 2-2, but who else in world football at our level would be happy with even that?
That is why I do not have the old anger any longer at results like this, or against those barbarians from down the Seven Sisters Road. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result, so why would I expect Arsene to change now?
But hey, it's not so bad. We only have two more years of this, amirite?
The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:
Ospina 5, Gibbs 6, Koscielny 4, Mertesacker 3, Bellerin 6, Coquelin 6 (Oxlade-Chamberlain 5), Cazorla 5 (Rosicky N/A), Welbeck 5, Ozil 5, Sanchez 5, Giroud 3 (Walcott 5)
Man of the Match: What a player Monaco have in this Anthony Martial. Strong, lightning-fast, gets in good positions, has drive and urgency...something tells me that he won't be a Monaco player for too long.
Sean Swift is a contributing writer to The Modern Gooner, and is unbelievably thankful that Carey Price has ensured that one of my teams is not a maddening, schizophrenic train wreck.